Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pro-Choice to do What?

As we witnessed the annual March for Life this past week, I keep seeing one argument pop up over and over by those who defend that travesty of justice called the "right" to abortion. That argument is "I'm not pro-abortion, I'm pro-choice."

To which, I reply: "The choice to do what?"

Because the answer is, "to have an abortion," we can see that the argument of "I'm not pro-abortion, I'm pro-choice," is essentially trying to hide behind semantics in the hopes of saying what it is less blunt, perhaps as a way to soothe a troubled conscience by using a euphemism.

The tactic is similar to the dispute over slavery. The Southern desire for secession was paraded in the name of "States Rights."

Which again brings up the question: "The state's right to do what?"

Well, it was over the state's right to determine the legality of slavery... something we know today is reprehensible.

The euphemisms "pro-choice" or "states rights" make a declaration... that the thing defended is something which can be legitimately chosen without being declared illegal.

So, in terms of the euphemism "states rights," it is argued that the state can decide whether or not whether people who are non-white can be owned as property... no other body can decide it is never right and forbid it by law.

Likewise, with the euphemism "pro-choice," it is argued that an individual alone can decide whether or not an unborn child will live or die, and no other body can forbid it by law.

The problem is, these euphemisms ignore the fact that there was (in the case of states rights) and is (in the case of pro-choice) a dispute over whether any individual or group has the power to deny the human rights to another person or group.

Once upon a time, people believed that because some human beings had a darker skin color, they could be denied human rights and treated as property.

Today, some people believe that because some human beings are unborn, their mothers can decide to deliberately kill them.

When you strip away the euphemism and rhetoric, that is what the propaganda of "I'm not pro-abortion, I'm pro-choice" actually means.

The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can recognize the ugly truth hidden behind delicate language.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Christians Behaving Badly? A Logical Reflection

Let's consider an argument which is sometimes made against Christianity. Some horrendous action is done by someone who professes a belief in Christianity. This action is used to argue Christianity is a harmful belief.

There are all sorts of problems with such a claim.

The Logical Problem

The logical syllogism of such a claim works this way:

■ [Bill] is a [Christian] ([A] is part of [B])
■ [Bill] is a [Bigot] ([A] is a part of [C])
■ Therefore [Christians] are [Bigots] (Therefore [B] is part of [C])

Now, look at the diagram attached to this blog. What we can tell is how A relates to B and to C. But we can't tell anything about how B and C interact with each other. (This is known as the fallacy of the undistibuted middle).

The point is, the behavior of an individual does not automatically mean his behavior exists because of his religious beliefs.  Abortion is condemned by the Catholic Church, for example. But the Andrew Cuomos and Nancy Pelosis of the world show that many people profess to be Catholic while supporting the actions the Church condemns as evil.  Using the same fallacy:

■ Nancy Pelosi is pro abortion
■ Nancy Pelosi is Catholic
■ Therefore Catholics are pro abortion.

Which is asinine. (And despite what the media unethically claims, Pope Francis condemns abortion). Pelosi holds her position in spite of Catholic teaching , not because of Catholic teaching.

The Reasoned Approach

Before we can blame the behavior of Bill on his religion, we need to determine what his religion teaches, and whether his religion approves of or disapproves of his actions. This can require some digging. For example, if a religion supports missionary activity,  but condemns forced conversion, then if Bill baptizes people at gunpoint, he is acting against, not for, his religion.


This is part of seeking the truth. The stereotype stops at equating bad behavior as part of the essence of the disliked group. The truth seeker asks whether a person does a wicked act because of or in spite of his beliefs.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are common behavior. Some (like "all blacks are criminals") are mostly recognized as wrong and offensive. But many others are accepted as a matter of fact.


The thing to remember is, whenever a claim is made drawing a conclusion against Christianity, one needs to determine whether the person acts in accordance with their beliefs or against them.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reflections on Religious Freedom vs. The Judiciary


The Washington Post has a rather asinine article about the issue of religious freedom and posting offensive objects under religious freedom under the First Amendment.

The idea of a Satanic monument to be next to a display of the Ten Commandments may, at first glance, seem to be a reductio ad absurdum to the defense of the Ten Commandments being displayed. After all, isn't it favoritism to allow one religious display, but not another?

Preliminary Notes

Now, for purposes of this article, I'll leave out the repugnance of  Satanism as a man made religion which is an express repudiation of Christianity.  I'll also leave out the consideration of Christianity having any special rights because it is the true religion.

While I both believe Catholic Christianity is the true religion and Satanism is offensive and a lie, the focus here is about freedom of religion in general and the all or nothing view of the judiciary.

The Principal Problem

I think the problem is the courts commit the fallacy of equivocation. They take the concept of religious freedom with different meanings, when it needs to keep a consistent meaning.

The freedom of religion involves the right of the individual to seek out and follow God according to their conscience without interference from the state, either by mandating the attendance in one religion (an official state Church like Anglicanism in Elizabethian England) or by restricting a religion from functioning (like the Soviet Union).

However, the freedom of religion does not mean an approach of either all get the same amount of attention in the public sphere or none do.

Distinguishing Protection of a Minority from Suppression of a Majority

Law has had an emphasis on protecting the rights of a minority from the tyranny of the majority. This is a good concept when properly understood. We recognize it is unjust to mistreat a minority and restrict them from practicing the rights all people possess.

Unfortunately, the judiciary seems to take a view that if we can't give all religions the same weight, we can't allow any of them to have a public presence. It ignores the fact that the majority of Americans do have a shared religious culture and heritage and tries to pretend it doesn't exist.

America tends to get bizarre here by forgetting a sense of proportion. The percentage of Christians in America is about 78.4%. The next largest  religion is Judaism (1.7%). Islam is 0.6%.  While 16.1% is unaffiliated with religion,  only 1.6% are atheists.

Now while not all people who profess Christianity actually practice it, it does mean that the influence of Christianity plays a large role in how many Americans view life.  The Cross, the Ten Commandments... these are things which are meaningful to the vast majority of Americans. For example, even to nominal Christians, the Ten Commandments  have meaning in terms of law and justice.

The Abundance of Christian Symbols is not Infringement of Religious Rights of a Minority

Now, the 78.4% of Americans who recognize Christianity as true would do wrong to suppress the human rights of 21.6% of the population who don't.

But suppression of religious rights involves either the forcing actions which the believer finds condemned by their conscience or forbidding actions the believer feels morally obligated to do.  For example,  the Obamacare Contraception Mandate involves the forcing of funding contraceptives and abortifacients by people whose conscience forbids them from doing so.

It doesn't mean that symbols of a religion consisting of 0.6% (Islam) of the US population has to be as visible as the symbols of a religion consisting of 78.4% or else it is discrimination. Nor does it mean that the 1.6% of the population that is atheist has the right to suppress the existence of religion in the public sphere because they deny the Divine exists.

Trolling and Harassment

Another consideration is that when a group puts up a counter monument for the purpose of showing their disagreement with the Christian symbol, this is not an issue of religious freedom for the countering group. It is an issue of harassment. The original Christian monument is not put up for the purpose of propaganda. But the counter monument is.  Belief in the Divine is a delusion!  these monuments proclaim.   Don't believe in Christianity, believe in us! they say.

But the War Memorial built in the shape of the Cross is not made to promote Christianity. It exists as a prayer for the war dead, remembering the salvation Christ died and rose to bring us.

Now, some don't believe that Christ was anything more than a man. But to take offense in the hope and prayers that the war dead may rest in God and demand the removal is not an action of religious freedom. It's an act of religious oppression, saying "I disagree with Christianity. So take it down!"


The problem with the legislature and the courts is they begin with a faulty assumption... that any religious symbol on public land counts as the establishment of a religion. But in accepting the demands that no religious symbol exist on public land actually favors the establishment of atheism. The accepting of demands to establish a monument that exists for the purpose of rejecting a religion when the original monument has no propaganda intent actually establishes a religious harassment as a right.

A government which wants to respect the rights of the freedom of religion needs to consider these things. It ought to distinguish intent instead of blindly taking a one size fits all approach without considering whether the appeal is done for a legitimate redress or for harassment.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Musings From Reading Denzinger

From Denzinger #326, decreed by Pope St. Nicholas I in 863 AD:

Chap. 5. If anyone condemns dogmas, mandates, interdicts, sanctions or decrees, promulgated by the one presiding in the Apostolic See, for the Catholic faith, for the correction of the faithful, for the emendation of criminals, either by an interdict of threatening or of future ills, let him be anathema.

Radical Traditionalists routinely condemn the decrees of the Church since Vatican II, including those involving the correction of those individuals who defied the Church... like Archbishop Lefebvre.

So we see something interesting here.
1) If those who don't follow the ancient decrees of the Church are to be condemned...
2) and one of the ancient decrees of the Church was to declare that anyone condemning the decrees of the Apostolic See to be anathema...
3) then it seems the radical traditionalists stand condemned for condemning the Pope when he intends to teach as head of the Church

...which is not limited to ex cathedra proclamations. Vatican I did point out:

If then any shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, and not full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those things which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world; or assert that he possesses merely the principal part, and not all the fullness of this supreme power; or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the Churches and over each and all the pastors of the faithful; let him be anathema.

So, when the Pope decrees a change in the Mass, when he excommunicated a recalcitrant bishop for illicitly consecrating three bishops against the his express refusal... the condemnation of these is the condemnation of a papal decree.


The radical traditionalists should be grateful the Popes they blast and condemn are so patient and merciful.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Any Way You Look At It, It's Still Bigotry

A news report tells us of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) objected to Bibles being placed in the guest rooms of a university.

The interesting thing is the fact that the FFRF objects to the presence of religion in the public sphere, and believe that nobody should have to be exposed to it... so to prevent exposure, they take a stand when religion makes a public appearance.

Some people may think it is reasonable, but consider this.  Would anyone consider it acceptable if somebody decided that because they thought someone's political beliefs were offensive and dangerous, it should have no presence in the public sphere? (A Freedom From Liberalism Foundation could close most of the universities in America).

No, the FFRF behavior is not about religious neutrality as they claim. It's based on the intolerance of beliefs other than their own.

People of good will should consider whether groups that want to block religion in the public sphere are any better than any other groups which try to hinder the public activity of those they dislike.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

TFTD: Relativism In Space (or In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Reason)

In watching or reading modern science fiction, there seems to be a trend where more "enlightened" aliens rebuke people of Earth for their narrow views on morality. They point out that their own values are different, and ought to be respected, because all morality is subjective.

The irony is, these "enlightened" aliens seem to have no respect for the values of the people of Earth.

Essentially, these aliens are saying, "Your views are subjective.  Ours are objective."

But since the aliens are arguing that values are subjective, they contradict themselves...

...or rather, the scriptwriters do. Since when this kind of dialog is used, it's basically pushing a moral relativity and portraying it as an objective good that only backwards people oppose.

What's overlooked is the fact that if all values are relative, there's nothing wrong with with these "Earth values," and nothing right about "alien values" of relativity.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reflections From Morning Readings

When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is it you, you disturber of Israel?” He answered, “It is not I who disturb Israel, but you and your father’s house, by forsaking the commands of the Lord and you by following the Baals.  (1 Kings 18:17-18)

When people who seek to remake morality to make their own vices seem acceptable, they try to accuse the people standing up for the traditional morality of being disruptive to the moral order.

But in fact, it is not the defenders who seek to disrupt or impose.  It is those who disobey and try to impose their disobedience as the new normal who disturb the land.

These people who try to remake morality try to cast themselves as the aggrieved party, defending themselves from injustice. But they are in fact the aggressors, imposing and disrupting.  They are the ones who behave in the way they accuse us of acting.

Monday, January 6, 2014

It Is Really That Painfully Simple

But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Because if a man is ignorant of the fact something is wrong and acts in ignorance, he incurs no guilt, provided natural reason was not enough to show him that it was wrong.  But while ignorance may excuse the man, it does not excuse the act, which is wrong in itself.  If I permitted the act simply because the man is ignorant that it is wrong, then I would incur guilt, because I do know it to be wrong.  It is really that painfully simple. (Canticle for Liebowitz, p296)

The Obama administration argues that those religious nonprofit groups that object to the contraception mandate only have to sign a form showing their objections and let the insurer provide the coverage directly instead.

They can't understand why we Catholics object.

The fact is, if it is wrong for us to do, it is wrong for us to get another to do it in our place.

The supposed compromises are no compromises. It may confuse those improperly educated in the faith. It may provide a deception to the wrongly formed conscience. But it remains wrong, and because we know it to be wrong, it is painfully simple. As St. Peter said, we must obey God rather than man because what man decrees is against what God commands.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

TFTD: Self-Contradictions Revisited

There's an old joke that goes:

He: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?
She: Yes.
He: Would you sleep with me for $20?
She: What kind of girl do you think I am?
He: We've already established that... now we're just haggling over the price.

One of the biggest ironies out there is that certain people believe that no beliefs are objective.

Think about that one for a minute...

The flaw is, that claim is itself a belief. If it objectively true, it is false. If it's false, it's... false.  This is what is known as a self-contradiction.

The most obvious self-contradiction is, "there are no absolutes."  To which the simplest refutation is to ask, "absolutely none?" (If the statement was always true, it's an absolute and false. If it's false, it's false. Either way, absolutes exist).

The point is, by making such a claim, the person has acknowledged the existence of objective truth... what is left is discovering what the objective truth is.

Trying to deny that is simply trying to ignore reality.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Does It Matter?

Some who try to denigrate Church teaching they disagree with try to portray it as a small matter. The argument goes that issue X is minor and the only people to make a big deal out of it is a pendantic Church obsessed with minor details.

There are two problems with this however:

First, Christ Himself pointed out that:

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. (Luke 16:10)

So what does that say about a person who excuses his wrong by saying that it is only a small matter?

Second, just because someone downplays the importance something does not mean it is a minor thing. In the 1987 movie RoboCop, we saw a lawyer trying to downplay a criminal charge: "Attempted murder? It's not like he killed someone. This is a clear violation of my client's civil rights." The problem of course is that just because the criminal didn't do one crime doesn't mean he did no crime.

Likewise, some try to argue that because their action is not as serious a sin as X, it ought not to be considered a sin at all. That doesn't follow.

Either way, the person who makes excuses to reject the teaching authority of the Church tends to show themselves likely to excuse their violating other obligations.

TFTD: Spirit of the Age

There is a certain faction of Catholics that believe the Second Vatican Council was a mistake. They point to the Catholics who live in opposition to Church teachings and blame the Council for causing the problem.

The facts don't line up with the accusations however. The 1960s were a rebellion against all sorts of authority, affecting not only Catholics but non-Catholics and even non-Christians.

Likewise, the most infamous of the dissenters predated the Council. They weren't formed by the Council. They took advantage of the confusion to form people in the image they wanted, invoking the meaningless term "the spirit of the Council." In fact they were following the spirit of the age.

The accusations of Vatican II causing the turmoil is a post hoc fallacy. It presumes A is followed by B. Therefore A caused B.

If this is charge against Vatican II is true, then the Lateran V Council (1512-1517) could be said to have caused the Protestant revolt beginning in 1517.

Both charges are ridiculous. Both Councils happened at times when the undercurrent of rebellion was growing and both times the rebellion exploded after the Councils. But neither Council caused the rebellion.

But with both the "spirit of Vatican II" and the opponents of Vatican II, logic and reason -- as well as obedience to the Church -- seems to be lacking.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflections on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

The Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1st, which I think is utterly fitting. Secularly, the New Year is generally a time for hope that the new year will bring good things. Of course, for some who have lost hope, the new year can be a time of dread... how much worse will things get?

In terms of Our Lady, we see that God has prepared to have His Son enter humanity taking on human flesh through the pregnancy of a young virgin.  This showed the plan of God for our salvation, His being willing to do something so humble for us for our benefit.

So, when we consider 2014 and all the concerns we have, let's remember that this Solemnity shows God cares for all of us. He is not neglecting us, He is not neglecting His Church.

Whatever may happen to us in 2014, whatever our fears, let us remember God continues His plan of salvation... for each of us individually and for all of us as a whole. Remembering this, let us go forth trusting Him and cooperating with Him.